Pre-funeral feast very unusual

Editorial, Normal

The National, Thursday, May 19, 2011

A METAL bird of paradise is immortalised on a westward journey high above Erima, Port Moresby, where once stood a rather busy tucker box which operated all hours.
Here, Daniel Mapiria of the Pina clan in Kuranda village of Koroba-Lake Kopiago first came to fame when it was decided that his tucker box was in the way of the K120 million airport to town Poreporena Freeway.
After a protracted battle with the powers that be, Mapiria was paid several millions of kina for his destroyed property and livelihood.
He has been in and out of court several times and, at one time, created quite a stir in the courtroom by
collapsing when he was about to be sentenced.
Property developer and activist in the drive for a Hela province, Mapiria was at one time appointed chairman of the National Gaming Control Board.
On Tuesday, a rather strange advertisement appeared in our classified pages announcing that Mapiria was quite ill and that a gathering had been called in the nation’s capital in order for him to say goodbye to his friends and relatives.
Today, we carry a story of Mapiria on our front-page, announcing the details of that feast.
Anticipating death, Mapiria’s friends have decided to throw a party for his family and friends.
It is a rather unusual move and truly untraditional, but it was a gesture that was sure to start a trend.
The haus krai (funeral house) to honour somebody dead is a traditional feature of PNG society. We honour the dead by contributing food and material wealth in his or her honour.
The living relatives, in return, are required to feed the visitors for the duration of the mourning and, at its end, a big party with gifts of food and cash is expected.
It is a truly expensive exercise that is “enjoyed” by the living.
The dead, in whose honour all these activities go on, could not much care what happens.
This is an event which clearly breaks with tradition.
It must be explained here that many parties are thrown in honour of the sick and the dying by relatives including those organised by the sick themselves.
Normally, those parties are aimed at getting the sick to return to health and, only in very rare circumstances, do we witness any feasts to be of a pre-funeral nature, so to speak.
Mapiria’s Tuesday bash in Port Moresby clearly ranked among those rare occasions.
His friends threw a lavish K40,000 party in Port Moresby as Mapiria lay on his sick bed and relatives and friends from all walks of life came to pay their respects.
It was his wish, so we gather, that this party be of a funeral nature.
After this, if he were to die, it was his wish that there be no elaborate funeral gatherings and that his body be rested peacefully and quietly.
It is rather quaint and, in its quaintness, there is something rather attractive in it that could, in time, become a novelty and even develop into a cultural trend.
Too many times, we witness many tens of thousands of kina spent on bereavement advertisements.
Many more thousands are spent on funerals and haus krais.
Often, there is far more money spent on a person who is dead than he ever got at any one time when living.
Were such cash available in life, it might well have sustained that person further by helping pay for medical bills or help reduce the stress levels by paying for bills.
People who turn up for funerals often included those that the dead person had never seen in life.
Others, who he or she would have thought will always be there, often do not.
It would be helpful, if only for the knowledge of it, to know who are one’s true friends and relatives
before closing his eyelids forever.
Mapiria knows now that his friends will throw together a lavish party at a moment’s notice.
He knows too that his Southern Highlands Governor Anderson Agiru is willing and able to call up K200,000 in his (Mapria’s name) to send him abroad for medical attention.
Like the metal bird poised in flight above, where it all started for Mapiria, he might not be there in person but this gesture might live on.